Tbilisi erupts in violence as Georgian police attack demonstrators

By bne IntelliNews November 7, 2007

bne -

The stand-off between opposition protestors and government forces turned violent on Wednesday, November 7 as riot police and security forces cleared demonstrators from the square in front of Georgia's parliament in the capital of Tbilisi.

Some 1,000 security forces stormed several thousand protestors with water canons, tear gas and truncheons at around 1pm local time as the protestors attempted to gather outside parliament. Local media filmed protestors being punched and kicked to the ground, and the mood among the crowd turned to one of utter shock, reporters said.

The first violence occurred at around 8am local time as some 300 policemen wearing fluorescent yellow, hooded capes cleared about 100 demonstrators, including 47 hunger strikers, from outside the parliament, reported the newswire Reuters, citing an opposition leader.

"They beat us and detained two people, as far as I know," opposition leader Tina Khidasheli told Reuters. Opposition leader Giorgi Khaindrava was among those detained and, allegedly, beaten.

"We didn't use force on the crowd, we just cleaned the avenue of rubbish. Only some people who tried to resist were detained," Tbilisi patrol police chief Giorgi Gegechkori told reporters. Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava said the action had been carried out to restore traffic, prevent protestors from pitching tents in the city centre and to sanitize the area.

"The authorities will not allow the city and the country to be turned into tent camps. Special sanitary services are now disinfecting the area," Interfax reported Ugulava as saying. The mayor reportedly conceded that people were entitled to express their protest in a peacefully way.

A turn for the worse

Demonstrations had protested peacefully since November 2, when some 70,000 people gathered in front of parliament calling for early parliamentary elections in spring 2008 and for President Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation. The president has not been seen in public since the demonstrations began, however, in a taped interview aired on local TV stations on November 4, Saakashvili rejected the opposition's demands. Saakashvili maintains that the latest polls show 40% support for his government and the closest opposition party has only 10. Still, Saakashvili refuses to allow a snap national election to solve the crisis, even though protestors have pledged to continue demonstrating until he resigns and the authorities agree to hold early elections.

In an interview November 3 with Moscow-based defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, Saakashvili acknowledged there are problems related to unpopular reforms that have been implemented, but stressed that, "We must await results." The Georgian economy is looking as though its overheating with expected GDP growth this year at 15%, with inflation at over 11%. Next year, Saakashvili predicts growth of 10% with inflation again over 10%.

Within an hour of the police action to clear the area in front of parliament, some 500 protestors had returned and by the time the police moved to re-disperse the crowd with water canons and tear gas, they faced several thousand protestors. Riot police, masked and in full protective gear, and security forces, wearing balaclavas and dressed all in black, joined the policemen and, in what appeared to be a shockingly brutal crackdown, cleared protestor out of the city centre.

TV crews were caught up in the violence and security forces reportedly confiscated film. A reporter from the opposition TV station Imedi was reportedly beaten up by security forces.

Some 250 people were admitted to hospital and most of the complaints were related to the use of tear gas, Georgian Health Minister David Tkeshelashvili told a briefing later in the day, reported newswires.

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said that the use of tear gas and water canons was justified. "All permissible measures, including teargas, were used for dispersing the demonstration. Rustaveli Avenue must be open, and this was done," Nogaideli was reported as saying.

Georgian parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze called for the opposition to stop its demonstrations and resume a constructive dialogue with the government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly described the events in Georgia as a domestic affair, but said that Moscow is worried about Tbilisi's attempts to undermine a peaceful settlement.

Following the crackdown, protestors dispersed, though by late afternoon some 10,000 had reportedly gathered in Rike Square in the old part of Tbilisi. According to newswires, the number of protesters was growing and opposition leaders continued to call for the peaceful resignation of Saakashvili.

Send comments to The Editor

Tbilisi erupts in violence as Georgian police attack demonstrators

Related Articles

Former owner regains control of Georgia's Rustavi 2 TV

bne IntelliNews -   The former owner of Georgian TV station Rustavi 2 has won his court case to regain control of the independent broadcaster, which was taken from him under ... more

Georgia Healthcare Group gears up for €480mn London IPO

Monica Ellena in Tbilisi - Georgia Healthcare Group (GHG), the country’s largest healthcare provider, is gearing up to float on London’s stock exchange, setting a price range that could value ... more

COMMMENT: Great challenges for Eurasia call for decisive solutions

Juha Kähkönen of the IMF - The Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region continues to navigate a wave of external shocks – the slump in global prices of oil and other key commodities, the slowdown ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at sales@intellinews.com

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at sales@intellinews.com

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.